The New York Giants were the last team to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, ending their 20-game home winning streak 2 1/2 months ago.
History suggests that may be a good thing for the Patriots.
When the teams meet on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis, it will mark the 13th time in 46 years that the Super Bowl participants also played each other during the regular season. The squads that won the first meeting produced a 5-7 record in the National Football League’s championship game, including losses in five of the past six rematches.
“We’ll obviously look hard at the first game, but knowing Coach Belichick and their staff they’ll have a new game plan, they’ll have some new wrinkles in there,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning, 31, told reporters after practice yesterday. “We have to give credit to them. They’ll be well prepared.”
The Patriots won the first of three Super Bowl titles under Bill Belichick after the 2001 season by defeating the St. Louis Rams, a franchise they lost to in Week 10.
The Giants got revenge on the Patriots four years ago, ending New England’s pursuit of a perfect season with a 17-14 Super Bowl victory five weeks after losing 38-35 in the final game of the regular season. The Giants also took the rematch in the Super Bowl after the 1990 season, with a 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills, who beat them in Week 15.
The Giants beat the Patriots 24-20 on Nov. 6 in Foxborough, Massachusetts, by scoring two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes, 3 seconds, including the game-winning score with 15 seconds left.
New York’s defense forced four turnovers in that game, including two interceptions and a fumble by Brady.
“That game was so long ago,” said Giants linebacker Michael Boley, who had 10 tackles, one of his team’s two sacks and a forced fumble in the first meeting. “A lot has changed not only with their team, but ours.”
Defensive end Justin Tuck said the Giants draw confidence from winning in New England in Week 9 when wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw were out with injuries.
“The biggest thing for us was that it has been a confidence boost playing how we played against teams when we weren’t at full strength,” Tuck told reporters. “We are probably as healthy as we have been all year and we have everybody back that we came into the season with. We feel very confident that we can play with anybody.”
New England has won 10 straight games since its loss to the Giants and enters the Super Bowl as 3-point favorites, according to oddsmakers.
Belichick said he recognizes that the Giants and coach Tom Coughlin have had success in rematches this postseason. New York beat Green Bay in the second round of the playoffs after losing to the Packers in Week 13, and then won the National Football Conference championship game in San Francisco after losing to the 49ers in Week 10.
“Tom and his staff have done a great job of pulling the schemes together and putting their players in productive positions where they can excel,” Belichick said yesterday on a media conference call. “They’ve performed well under pressure in critical games. They’ve played some of their best football when they’ve had to.”
The Giants have won five of their past six postseason rematches, including wins over Dallas, Green Bay and the Patriots during their championship run after the 2007 season. They lost to all three of those teams in the regular season.
“It’s a great credit to their organization, their coaching staff and their team,” Belichick said. “We know this is the best team we’ve played. This is going to take our best game and that’s the way it should be.”